Spring has sprung! This is the time of year when many of us are eager to get outdoors, to jump into our balloons and take to the skies to enjoy the freedom and exhilaration that only our sport can deliver. But this Spring is different…
The Coronavirus/Covid-19 crisis has changed the world we live in, sparking national lockdowns around the world. Like each of you, the BFA continues to monitor the progress of this disease and its impact on our members and our sport. Now, with the arrival of better weather, some of you may be asking, “Am I okay to go fly?”
There is no clear and absolute answer. It should be noted that there has been no federally mandated “no fly” policy, either by the White House or the FAA. Likewise, the BFA is not a regulatory body. We cannot mandate our member’s behavior. However, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued National Guidelines for ALL Americans to follow in this national emergency. You can read those guidelines here https://www.coronavirus.gov
Additionally, across the USA, the Governors of most (but still not all) 50 states have issued various “Stay At Home” orders to their citizens. While not universal, these orders do follow these general conditions:
- Stay At Home
- No gathering of people in groups larger than (2) (10) (50) people at a time.
- All shops closed except those selling essential supplies
- Limit travel/outdoor activity to essential needs only including: for food and essential supplies, for medical needs, exercise, and to care for a vulnerable person.
- Do not go to work unless deemed an essential business
So in making a decision whether or not to go for a balloon flight, while there is no current regulatory restriction against doing so, consider the social and ethical restrictions, notably:
- Can you/your crew/passengers maintain proper social distancing in the course of the launch, flight, chase, and recovery
- Is your “travel” essential?
- And what about landowners? Imagine the reaction of a landowner who has been shut in for days (maybe weeks), possibly with their children home as well, when you and a gang of people (passengers & crew) show up unexpected and uninvited on their property, acting for all the world as if it’s just another day. Or perhaps you’ll land in a schoolyard or at a church, or a park or other public property, closed to its normal activities specifically for the purpose of keeping people from gathering in close proximity.
- Now consider the news media – keen to report any story suggesting some people see the guidelines as something only others should follow. How will your flight be perceived by them and their millions of viewers, most of whom have also been struggling with this pandemic and may already have had a friend or loved one succumb to the disease?
Remember it is possible to carry and spread the disease without yet showing symptoms. What will you say to the family who possibly loses a loved one after being infected by yourself, one of your crew, or even a passenger or family member who was along for the social outing? What will your family say if it’s YOU who becomes infected?
There is currently no regulation saying you cannot fly. However the BFA strongly advises that as a responsible pilot you should make yourself aware of all the available information, Federal, State and local, guidelines, and/or restrictions applicable to your flying area and then use your best judgment to make a go/no go decision.
We love our sport and our ballooning family and care deeply about all of you. Like you, we are looking forward to the day when we can color the sky with beautiful colors and share the magic of ballooning.
For the present, we suggest, Stay At Home and follow all Federal, State and local guidelines and restrictions.
Your BFA Board of Directors